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Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody's Fool Hardcover – September 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
In September the work of the contemporary Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara will fill New York City's Asia Society Museum (of which Chiu is director) in an unprecedented one-man show. This catalogue also pulls out all the stops. Mimicking the windows in Nara's installations, an elaborate slipcase has cutouts with several of Nara's captivating characters peeking out. The essays, of uneven quality, place Nara in the company of animator Walt Disney, indie rock, and Margaret Keane, a painter of kitschy, wide-eyed child-people. Nara speaks best for himself in 300 illustrations and in several blog entries. He describes his love of album jacket art: "Once I spilled coffee over a jacket. It didn't affect the sound, but I ended up buying the same record again (laugh...)." These excerpts represent Nara as a truly contemporary artist engaged with social media and unafraid to pop up on mass merchandise. With its punk music influences and Morton-salt-girl-meets-David-Lynch aesthetic, Nara's work has an irresistible appeal well represented here.
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About the Author
Melissa Chiu and Miwako Tezuka are the director and associate curator of Asia Society Museum and cocurators of the 2010 exhibition.
Midori Matsui is a noted Japanese art critic. Michael Wilson is an associate editor for Artforum magazine.
Hideki Toyoshima founded graf design collective, which has collaborated with Nara on multiple installations.
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It is published in Hong Kong, one step up from Made In China but definitely printed to Made in Hong Kong standards by Abrams, a long established art book publisher with long established ties to the HK printing industry. As such, the book has the look and feel that one expects from an Abrams title published in HK which ties in to my overall critique of this book. To wit, that this epitomizes what is an adequate representation of Mr. Nara's work.
The works contained are primarily his paintings but also numerous --about an equal number-- of the artist's drawings on paper and some sculptural works. In fact, the book contains a more than adequate number of artworks, and a very representative display of Mr. Nara's talent from at least as early as 1984 to 2009.
The book includes a small number of well-written essays. Of most interest to me, an extended discussion with the artist. This was the most edifying and satisfying aspect of the book. I believe that the artist said what he needed to make his point well, and his point was well taken.
I rate this 3 stars because it will be best received by people who are enamoured of Mr. Nara's artwork and who just want to see as much of it as they can, and for them this is a 4 or 5 star publication.
For those of us who are mildly interested or just curious, this book is adequate. Then any large and comprehensive book about the artist will do just as well, I think, and without knowing more about what books are out there, one suspects there are other books with broader appeal; perhaps is a little less esoteric.
Having said that, the thing about Nara's work is its immediacy. One can take it in with just a glance. The artist states that many people are trying to read things into his art work that are perhaps not intentionally there.
This is the thing about art criticism though, that we must look for deeper meaning or else it is mere decoration. Nara goes so far as to deny that he considers himself an artist and I take him at his word and admire his self-knowledge.
This is not to say that his artworks are not 'art' nor that they are not arresting, well-executed, even beautiful. I believe that Nara's statement stems from a belief that I intuitively understand but cannot verbalize; but I do understand.
I agree that Yoshitomo Nara is nobody's fool.